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Paul Burton Talk at ExpressionEngine conference

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On October 20th at the 2011 ExpressionEngine and CodeIgniter conference, Paul Burton gave a talk entitled "Don't call me a freelancer!" about professionalism. The talk contained an image of a group of dildoes wearing hats that originated from an ongoing Twitter conversation by some members of the community, in which the involved male community members are portrayed with dressed up dildoes. It also includes wordplay that states that a business contract is about a "transfer of services", whereas a marriage contract is about a "transfer of fluids", followed then by an illustration of a nude women spread-eagle with a contract obscuring her genitalia, which was shown as Paul spoke about how working for clients without a contract is akin to having sex with a prositute without protection. A mirror of the talk is available here.

Paul Burton posted about the reaction to his talk, saying he thought the pictures were "innocuous humor". He also posted "Lessons Learned", a few days later.

Leslie Camacho, then-CEO of EllisLab—the company behind the software the conference was focused on, but not the conference organizers themselves—posted about the incident, ending with this paragraph:

"So, that said, we won’t be 'vetting presentations' for sexual or 'offensive' content. But we will be implementing presenter guidelines that assume little, enable a lot, give power and flexibility, respects your 'code', and that ultimately help you succeed in a way that makes you smile."

Other responses to the incident (these are not sorted "Supportive" from "Critical", as most have elements of both:

We need more professional events that are inclusive and inviting to those working to make the internet and the world a better place through web development. That’s EECI.

These events are few. They require sacrifice to get to, and the last thing we need is to have inadvertently created yet another place to fight about what is or isn’t offensive vs. how to change the world and make it better.

The real shame here, is that #dildogate did two things:

  1. It eclipsed in attention an otherwise brilliant presentation. I was genuinely wrapped the entire time Paul was speaking and I found him to be easily one of the best presenters.
  2. It affected the external perception of EECI2011. There were 300 of us in attendance, but there were also thousands of others following the #eeci2011 hashtag.

And then there’s the part about dildos. Well, that happened. That happened and I must admit that I laughed. I laughed for a long time and so did almost everyone in that room. But that’s not why I’m writing this. I’m not writing to state that I wasn’t offended. Actually, I empathize with those who were. I think Paul made a decision – which I’ve come to learn was more informed than most assume – and it back fired on him and on the event and on the community as a whole. This is a legitimate concern but it also might be one of the few reasonable issues that our backlash has chosen to focus on. I also know that Paul has made the right steps to make amends and I applaud him for doing so. For those with enough integrity to step back, think about the realities of this issue with compassion and see that Paul never meant to hurt anyone: thanks, we need more like you.

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